Monday, January 27, 2014

Wold Hijab Day: What Hijab Means To Me

Wold Hijab Day

deafult picture microsoft

      On February 1, 2014 will mark the 2nd year celebration of World Hijab Day. Last year it Bangladeshi lady from New York City Nazma Khan.  Based on what I read from the website her family moved to New York City when she was 11 yrs old. She was bullied inside and outside her school because of her hijab. When she started selling hijab on-line. She met other sisters who had the same experienced like hers. She started the campaign around January  26 calling all women, Muslim and non Muslim to wear hijab for one day to experience the feeling, promote awareness and modesty. She received overwhelming response from all over the world. 100 countries have joined and it was translated in more than 40 languages. I only learned about it through facebook invitation. On February 2, the Muslim women of New York City will have our 1st Annual Convention in the Celebration of World Hijab Day. They called it "Hijab is my Crown". Muslim and Non-Muslim women are invited to the event. There would be talks, bazaar, fashion show, photobooth. It's a women only event. I'm excited about this event. I was hoping to be a vendor but they said they already fully booked for vendors. 

     I first wore hijab during my first Ramadan in 2013. I watched a lot of hijab tutorial from You Tube. I discovered that there are lot number of girls around the world who become popular doing hijab tutorial on You Tube. I love colorful scarves I bought quite different styles of hijab. I love the one that my mother in-law sent me from Bangladesh. I also love my first abaya that my friend from Jeddah sent me. I looked around for shops that would sell modest clothing in New York City. Most of them are shops near a big mosque of in Muslim communities like Jamaica Heights in Queens, Antlantic Avenue and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn. Most of these clothes are more traditional clothes from the different countries There are also a lot of people selling on-line. That's also inspired me to start my on-line business. I also did some kind of research when learning about Islam and what other sisters are doing on the different sides of the world. It really a learning experience because of the diversity of the cultures from different countries.

So what is Hijab?

“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their private parts: that is purer for them. Surely God is aware of everything they do.” (Quran 24:30)

     After few months of studying Islam and my observation not all women wear the headscarf. There are women who wear burqa, niqab, dupati, turban, and some Muslim don't wear hijab. A girl should start wearing hijab when she have her first period. I belief that a woman should not be compelled to wear it if she doesn't belief in it. Hijab is more than a piece of cloth. To be modest in appearance, action and speech. Yes, its takes courage and strong faith. I am not a scholar and my knowledge is not that much. So I leave the further explanation to the experts. Click the link to learn more about hijab from  Al-Islam

Farah Fashions NYC logo

Hijab as symbol of strength and responsibility

    I feel ashamed of myself because I know before I converted I am one of the people who had negative perceptions about women in Islam and Muslim in general based on what I see on multi-media. Now I realized that me wearing hijab becomes a symbol of strength and responsibility. I admire all the women who stand to their faith and consistently wearing hijab despite of discrimination and hate crimes against women wearing hijab. Some countries like France ban the use of hijab their government said that it is against the rule of the government. Wearing hijab is also a symbol of responsibility. Personally when I wear my hijab I am more conscious to my behavior. I tend to be more kind to strangers because I know that people will be looking at me and will judge all Muslim women based on what they see. As an individual person we contribute to what would be the people think about Muslim women. More than the issues of wearing hijab and modesty. The bigger issue of gender equality among Muslims should also be discussed within the community. Celebrating World Hijab Day is a perfect opportunity for everybody to talk about important issues. Through the World Hijab Day and other women's group I learned that women can still pursue their dream and fulfill their duties as Muslim women. I list down 5 young Muslim women who made contributions in their chosen field while wearing hijab.

1.  Malala Yousafzai - Blogger for BBC, education activist from Pakistan, she was shot in the head by Taliban because of her fight for education of girls. On her 16th birthday, July 12, 2013 she delivered speech at United Nations  and it was dubbed as "Malala Day".

Malala Youzafzai

2.  Ibtihaj Muhammad - World Champion Fencer,  First American-Muslim women to compete for the United States for Olympics
Ibtihaj Muhammad

3. Mariam Sobh - Blogger/ News Achor, USA, her blog Hijabtrendz has more than 500, 000 followers from all over the world. 

4. Obabiyi Aisha Ajibola - World Muslimah 2013 from Nigeria

 Obabiyi Aisha Ajibola

5. Tawakkol Karman - journalist from Yemen, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Winner

File:Tawakkul Karman (Munich Security Conference 2012).jpg
Tawakkol Karman

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today as much as I did. Comments, suggestions and recommendations are welcome. Invite your friends and family and let's celebrate World Hijab Day!!!

Follow Farah Fashions NYC 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Confessions of a Muslim Convert

As I mentioned in my previous post "My Conversion Story", I only takes a minute to be a convert to Islam but being a good Muslim is a life long journey. Honestly, it's not an easy process. Learning everything about Islam, reciting the prayers, learning the "wudu" and "ghusl", identifying 'halal' and 'haram',  finding a mosque and of course looking for friends who will help you to make the journey towards Islam memorable.

The Big News
My mother and father via Skype

Telling your family members that you converted to Islam is not an easy task. My family is Catholic and my parents are very religious people. I was trying to figure out the best way to tell them. I told my closest friends first and luckily they accepted my decisions wholeheartedly. One of my friends warn me about hate crimes against Muslims. I told her that I live in a mixed community in Brooklyn. Jews, Christians and Muslims live peacefully in my neighborhood so she have nothing to worry about. Another friend of mine asked me about a certain verse in the Quran which I am not familiar with. I told her I am just learning and I explained to her that we are still praying to the same God it's just that there are certain ways how we do it. Then, I got engaged so me and my husband talked to my parents via Skype about our wedding plans. They congratulate us and my parents gave us blessings for our marriage. Then, they were asking us, "So where will you have the ceremony? You know marriage is a sacrament and you should have a blessings in the church." I replied, "Hmm,...I converted to Islam." And they become speechless for a while. I explained the process of the wedding and I can see from the webcam that my parents are teary-eyed but then they still supported us. I am forever grateful for my parents about it. 
My friends Toneth de Leon and Dina Teodoro
wear tradional Bengali dress on my wedding

Learning Materials

When I converted the Imam gave me a learning kit. I have my second Quran, book about the Jesus and Mary mentioned in Quran, DVD about Islam and the prayer book. I also searched on Google about Quran, Islam and the life of a convert. The information are overwhelming. Honestly, there are thousands of site that could mislead someone  about the true meaning of Islam. It is one of the concerns of being a convert in filtering the information that we see on-line. There are different Schools of Thought in Islam and there are also people who are using Islam to promote violence. I hope there is a way that we can classify and validate if the information is valid and true to the essence of Islam.  

Learning the prayers

My husband was teaching me how to pray. All the prayers in Islam are in Arabic except for Du'as which you can say in your native language. At first I was shocked because first I am Filipino my native language is Tagalog and my parents are also speaking Illonggo, a native dialect from their province. Now I am in America I am speaking English, some of my students speaks Spanish so I am learning to speak Spanish. I have Rosetta Stone to help me learn. Then my husband is from Bangladesh his parents were asking me to learn Bangla because they said it is hard for them to learn English. Then, in order to practice my faith I need to learn Arabic. Before I doesn't makes sense to me. God is our Creator, He understand and sees our heart then why do we need to speak Arabic? Now, I see the value of learning Arabic. Quran was in Arabic in order to understand the full meaning of Quran we need to understand the Arabic language. Second, people from all over the world speaks different language. If all the Muslims learn Arabic, it will unite us as community. I enrolled in New Muslim Program and Perfecting the Prayer class at M.E.C.C.A. Muslim Education and Converts Center of America. I met wonderful converts who have their different stories of coming to Islam. I would highly recommend M.E.C.C.A. to all people who would want to learn more about Islam.
My friends at M.E.C.C.A.

Wearing Hijab
My hijab during Eidul Adha 

There are about 2 billion Muslims all over the world. There four schools of thought in Islam and they only agree on the 70% of the principles. I also read that there is no compulsion in religion. Many Muslim women are not wearing hijab. Some women wear burqa, some women wear niqab, some women wear hijab, some women don't cover their hair so totally it up to the person and your faith. Hijab is one of the most controversial issues among Muslims and people of other faith. Other people say that hijab is form of oppression and women were forced to wear hijab. Personally for me you have to belief on the purpose of wearing a hijab. It should come from your heart. Your love for Allah should be your main reason of wearing a hijab. Hijab is more than a piece of cloth. Hijab is modesty in appearance, in the way you speak and the way you behave. When I first wore hijab and used public transportation I experienced disapproving looks from people on the subway. People choose not so sit beside you even the train is crowded. At first it bothers me but then as months went on I just get used to it that wearing a hijab is part of my lifestyle. Honestly, I am not wearing it 100% maybe like 90% of the time. I love watching YouTube videos of  hijab tutorials from women all over the world. One of the YouTube channel that I like is the Hijabi Bengali Sisters

Finding a mosque

Finding a mosque is one of the issues of converts. There's a lot of mosque in New York City but each one of them have some kind of rules. Majority of the mosque were built by different communities and they speak their native languages and translate it English too.  Some of the mosques also don't have place for women. Some of the mosques also are overcrowded during Jummah. I've seen some Muslim brothers who were praying outside of the mosque and they placed their praying mat on the street. I feel bad especially during winter time but Subhaan Allah their faith is enough to keep them warm. Personally, I prefer to go to the mosque in 96th St. It's where I converted and got married so during Eid this is where we go to.

Looking Forward

After 8 months of being convert I memorized 5 Surah and I can pray by myself. But learning doesn't stop there. My goal is to learn to read Arabic and be productive member of my community. Since I converted I learned that there is limited shops that caters to active wear for Muslim women. My husband and I think of an idea on how to solve this issue. We will make a clothing company that would cater not just only for Muslim community but to all women who want modest clothing. And that's how the Farah Fashions NYC was born. 
created by: Cherry Ann Montehermoso
Farah Fashions NYC Logo by: CAOM
I hope you enjoyed reading my blog. Comments and suggestions are welcome. Photos, images and texts are properties of Cherry Ann Montehermoso. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014


I am a Special Education Teacher by profession so the lessons that I learn in on-line business are purely based on what I experience in my few days of having an on-line business. I got my entrepreneurial skills from my parents who always dream of having a successful business. My friends knew me as a business person. Since I was in Third Grade I used to sell home-made candies to my classmates until I was in college. Even when I was teaching in a public school in Philippines I am always into selling something aside from my full-time job. Now that I am based in New York City I would like to share my personal experience and I hope other people will get an idea on how it is like to have an on-line business.

1. Research:    What do you want to sell?

    It is a common knowledge that you will never get rich just by being an employee. I learn it from Dr. Robert Kiyosaki the famous author of the bestselling book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I remember I borrowed the book from my father like 10 years ago. There is always something that you are passionate about that even you don't get paid and even you do it for long period of hours it will make you happy. If you have answer to that then you already found the things that you can sell. There are people who likes doing crafts, painting, baking or etc. Whatever it is you can sell it on-line. Even your hobby or profession can also be offered on-line like photography, make-up, plumbing, construction, etc. Having an on-line presence can boost your sales and your market. If you are selling products you are not limited to your local community your products could reach any place in the world.  

2. Finance:     How much money are you willing to invest?
    You don't need thousands of dollars to start your on-line business. Even with few hundreds of dollars or even with nothing. If you don't have any money to start but you have finish products sitting in your house like painting, crafts, or old clothes you can definitely sell it on-line. If you want your business to be registered you need to apply for business permit if you live in NYC you can check-out or to learn how $100 to register the name of your business and you need to pay other fees like notarization so be prepared to have at least $150 when you go file for business permit. 

   When you apply for business permit you will also have Resale Tax ID . You will use your Reseller's Tax ID in buying goods from suppliers. Most of the whole sale or exporter will not sell if you don't have your Reseller's Tax ID. 

3. Website:     Where do you want to sell your products?
    It depends on what products or services you want to sell. There are numbers of on-line marketplace that caters specifically to the products and services that you want to sell. You don't need to have your own website to start your own on-line business. 

Amazon or Ebay These are the most popular sites where people usually buy things on-line. Personally I am a fan of Amazon because of the fast shipping and they offer store credit card which is most convenient for most people. If you are thinking of selling at these marketplace just click on the links to learn about the fees of posting your products. Their prices are very competitive for small business it is not very good.

Etsy or Storenvy These two are most popular for handicrafts or hand made products. Etsy is the Amazon for handicrafts. Storenvy is more like Etsy but opening your store is absolutely FREE!!!. Etsy charge 20 cents per product you post for 3 months but you get more exposure because there are magazines who are constantly looking for new designs at Etsy. Personally I have my shop at storenvy because its free. We are just starting out so we just want to spread the word for our business but we also consider other sites in the future. or If you want to have selling your services you can check out if you are graphic designer, website designer or programmer. People or companies who want these kind of services offer the job and geeks from all over the world will bid for the job. if you want babysitting, tutorial, care giving, pet sitting job you can be a member and its free. Even big business like daycare services, housekeeping services offer their services here. When I first came to NYC I found housekeeping and babysitting jobs at it really helps a lot.

Shopify, Big Cartel, Go Daddy  If you want to have your own website and drive traffic on your own then you can consider these three names. They offer domain name, website template that you can customized and other services for your business at certain cost. You don't need to know web design to have your own website. At first I was considering to have my own website but since I have limited budget then I decided have my store at Storenvy. 

Even if you have your website it is still advisable to spread the news the traditional way. Tell your family members, friends, co-workers about your business. My first sale mostly come from my friends. 

4. Suppliers:     Where will you get your products?

Before you think of your suppliers think first about your pricing. Look around the prices of your competitor and the quality of their products. Your prices should also be at the range of your competitors. Consider also other expenses such as packaging, labeling and shipping and of course pay yourself. Most of the suppliers are asking for your reseller's  tax Id before your can buy their products. At first I was planning of buying wholesale clothes from Bangladesh, China or Philippines but my major concern is shipping and minimum orders. Most of the exporters from Bangladesh or China or any other countries you have to buy a minimum of 100 pcs. and you have to pay for the shipping. This is not advisable to small-business like mine. I don't have storage and I don't have enough capital to invest. There are wholesaler in U.S. where you can buy your supplies and they have low minimum. Means you can buy goods like 6 pieces of shirt but if you buy in bulk of course you get lower prices. It depends on the quality of products you want to make to determine which suppliers you will go to. Always compare the prices and quality of the products and of course the reviews from actual customers is a big help. 

5. Marketing:   How will you make people buy your products?

In any business you have to know and study the target market of your products. I am selling women's clothes so my target market are women who like to buy clothes on-line. There are number of ways in doing on-line marketing.

Social Media  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blogger, LinkedIn These social media are the easiest way to attract traffic to your website and its free!!!. However you do not have to join in everywhere. You have to consider the time you can actually spend for updating these social media. Having a good number of followers can help your business but it does not always mean these followers will buy your products. Facebook pages are now offering pay per click marketing for business. Facebook will advertise your page and every time somebody click your ad it will automatically deduct in your account. For small business like mine pay per click is not advisable because I have limited funds. You have to be creative to make people like your page without spending money. 

Google Ad words it is also pay per click but you can drive your target market to your website.

Banners you will it them in most of the popular websites and blogs. People who would like to place a banner in a popular website will use these type of advertising and each time people click their banner the website owner of blog owner gets paid. 

Direct Mail Marketing there are number of companies where you can buy mailing list of your target market. First you will select the area, then the specific categories like household income, ethnicity, religion, etc. Then the website will give you the number of target clients based on the areas. You have to pay per mailing list or e-mail list. Then you can send direct offer to your target clients. 

Of-line Marketing. Aside from the number of on-line marketing strategies doing marketing the traditional way is always recommended. Having your business card, fliers and sample products always with you is advisable. People you meet at work, at parties at school can always be your customer. Having an actual product which they can directly buy is the best way. Personally, my first sales are the ones that I bring when I visit my neighbor and at a wedding party that I attended. I bring some samples of my products and somehow I made my sales. 

6. Time:    How much time are you willing to spent in your business?

I didn't realize that on-line business can be very time consuming. Well, I am happy with what I am doing so I doesn't matter. However, you have to take into consideration other duties that you have. I have my full time time job as a teacher and my duties as a wife. You should make your schedule and try to stick on it. You should try to balance your time across all areas of your life. I made a mistake to gave up my time for work out. Since I was busy in starting out my business I never went to the gym. Now, I have to make it a habit to work out  even with a busy schedule. 

7. Focus:     How to prioritize things?

It is my bad habit once I open my laptop I lose track of time and things that I have to accomplish. There are so many interesting on the internet that catches our attention and loses our focus on what is important. One of the effective ways for me is turning off my internet connection while doing report and I have my to do list visible all the time. It is also important to set your goal. That means we need a Business Plan. Having a plan in everything you do keeps you focus to achieve your goal. As a teacher we have a Lesson Plan so with our business. You can learn more about writing your business plan by researching on-line and by attending seminar / workshop for small businesses. Check-out government and NGO that provides free training for small business owners. 

8. Inspiration:     How will you keep your spirit high even if you don't have sales?

Support from your loved ones, friends and co-workers are important when your spirits are low. You have 100% faith in your products but you don't have any sales. You did everything I said from step 1-7 but still no sales. Guess what, it takes time to make your name or your products known to people. Just be patient and work hard. I will end my blog with a poem by Marianne Williamson "Our Greatest Fear" it is popularly quoted by the late Nelson Mandela. I first heard it from the movie "Akeela and the Bee". 

I hope you learn something from my blog. Comments, suggestions and questions are welcome. Share it if you like it. - Farah

Our Greatest Fear —Marianne Williamson

it is our light not our darkness that most frightens us

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

—Marianne Williamson

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Farah Fashions NYC - Modern Modest Clothing

Farah Fashions NYC goes on-line

Last January 3, 2014 Farah Fashions NYC goes on-line at please check out our on-line store at I spent the 2 weeks of my vacation for research, checking out suppliers, website, marketing ideas and finally we went on-line. It is really my passion to do fashion photography, make-up and selling clothes and I am really happy with what I am doing. Of course I still have to fulfill my other duties as a wife and as a teacher. I have some report to do which had to set aside because of my small business. 

Our first photo shoot

I am very lucky to have a friend like Diana Fuentes to be a model for my business. It was freezing in New York City. It was a day after the snow storm. My friend lives all the way in Queens and we are at Coney Island area. She took a cab just to go my house for our photo shoot. I did the make-up and the photography and she style the hijab by herself. 

I don't know much about fashion photography. I am planning to enroll at FIT for short course maybe after few months. I don't have fancy equipment and place. We did the photo shoot in our tiny living room. As you can see from the video some of the wires of our sound system are visible. I don't know how to edit yet so I just leave it as it is. 

Future Plans

On-line clothing store is just one of the many goals that me and my husband are planning to do. I am planning to enroll in Fashion Design and Photography to have our own design. Now, this is just our first step towards achieving our goals. On-line clothing business is a tough competition. We are competing against big businesses like Amazon and E-bay. We know the risks of doing this but we adhere to our advocacy of promoting modest clothing. With God's grace and determination we know we can succeed.

I hope you would like our video. Comments and criticism  are welcome. Thank you.